TLDR; October is a month dedicated to recognizing employees with disabilities. Making them an integral part of the workforce can have widespread benefits in business.
Here at Disclo, we focus on supporting people with disabilities and making it easier for them to work safely and comfortably. It’s only natural that we highlight the month that recognizes their contribution to the workplace.
In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October to be National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. It was the first federal recognition of employees with disabilities. They decided to drop the word “physically” from the title in 1962, so people with all types of disabilities could be included. By 1988, the entire month of October was designated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
In recent times, the Biden administration has taken steps to ensure equal opportunities for underserved communities that include people with disabilities. On his first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985, also known as the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
Below, President Biden defines equity and who the order is specifically meant to support:
Sec. 2. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
Although this won’t be accomplished overnight, it’s a big step in the right direction. Over 90 federal agencies began developing plans to carry out the order effectively. The U.S. Department of Labor released an Equity Action Plan in April 2022, addressing the following five areas where action will be taken to support underserved employees:
1. Enforcement of wage and hour laws
2. Administering/improving the unemployment insurance system
3. Improving access to DOL programs and services for workers with limited English skills
4. Expanded training
5. Opening federal work opportunities with government apprenticeships
An inclusive workplace typically has a more diverse workforce. This diversity makes it easier for new employees to fit in. They are more likely to find something in common with another person. If they connect with other coworkers, they are much less likely to leave. A low turnover rate means less money spent on training new hires and a more skilled, efficient team.
When employees feel respected and valued for their differences, overall morale goes up. They are free to be themselves without feeling pressured to conform to impossible expectations. An inclusive work culture fosters a more understanding environment where healthy communication is encouraged.
Happy employees equal more productive employees—13% more, according to a study done by Oxford University. In a diverse workforce, people’s differences become their strengths. When their contributions are recognized and their creativity is rewarded, employees enjoy doing their best. A business is like a machine, and each employee is an important part. If each person functions optimally, the business runs smoothly.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is the perfect time for employers to recognize how people with disabilities can be an asset to their companies. It’s also an opportunity for coworkers to have meaningful conversations and celebrate the unique qualities they bring to the workplace.